top of page

Opting In: Teaching to the Test (Part 3)

  1. cutting out arts, music, and social studies education

  2. excessive drilling on test items

  3. metering instruction

  4. putting excessive pressure on students to do well on standardized tests

  5. cheating schemes, organized by teachers and/or administratorsWho is responsible for instructional practices? When critics of testing observe bad testing practices, they blame the test ("If there were no test, we wouldn't have to teach to it") or they criticize the politicians at the state or federal level who mandated the standards and accountability systems under which tests are used. While it may feel good to blame Harrisburg or Washington DC, decisions about standards, curriculum, instruction, and preparation for standardized testing are in local hands.   Bad test prep is entirely under the control of the local community, acting through the School Board and the Superintendent.

dilbert blame


Students who have effective writing instruction score better on state writing tests than their counterparts who receive specific instruction in the skills assessed on the test....  The broadest and richest preparation in writing produces the highest test scores.   What this really means is that the best way to achieve high test scores is to focus not on the test itself but on learning.  And this is done by having a challenging curriculum aligned to learning standards, employing excellent teachers, and embracing strong instruction.    When teachers teach with a standards-aligned curriculum, and bring their own innovation and energy to the classroom, then students learn and grow.  And the test results follow naturally. The False Choice of Opt Out The Opt Out movement has presented us with a false dilemma.  The current system (they tell us) requires us to test students, narrow the curriculum, dumb down our instruction, drill and kill, and suppress creativity in the classroom.  Our only other option, they say, is to opt out of standardized testing, scrap tests like the PSSA, and focus on student learning.

'Teaching to the test' is good when it means ‘preparing students to do well on the test by teaching the subject’.

'Teaching to the test' is bad when it means ‘teaching students only a few things so that they'll pass the test’.

Is the school preparing my child to do well on any test that would cover the subject well?  Does the school understand that, if the students have strong skills and knowledge, the test scores will take care of themselves?

Do educators in your local school act as if their main mission is to raise test scores - no matter how?  Of do they understand that their job is to promote student learning, which will lead to higher test scores? Conclusion In response to testing, some school districts cut arts and music, excessively drill on test items, and put pressure on students to perform on standardized tests.  This is a mistake, and it is wholly unnecessary.   Such practices reflects flawed thinking, and poor oversight by the communities that allow such practices to take hold. Testing should serve our schools, not the other way around.  If schools use test results as indicators of progress, rather than as the goal in themselves, then this trap is easily avoided. I believe UCF is on the right path.  And we should stay on it by encouraging all students to learn, by providing them outstanding instruction, with engaging teachers, in well-equipped facilities, in schools with a vibrant and supportive culture of learning.  And by using assessments to tell us how well we are doing, and where we need to make adjustments.

toll booth
1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page